It’s all UARS

UPDATE from NASA 11:PM Fri:

NASA says it continues to wait for final confirmation of re-entry. “If debris fell on land (and that’s still a BIG if), Canada is most likely area,” the space agency just said.

  • Update #12

    Fri, 23 Sep 2011 07:50:07 PM PDT

    As of 10:30 p.m. EDT on Sept. 23, 2011, the orbit of UARS was 85 miles by 90 miles (135 km by 140 km). Re-entry is expected between 11:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, and 12:45 a.m., Sept. 24, Eastern Daylight Time (3:45 a.m. to 4:45 a.m. GMT). During that time period, the satellite will be passing over Canada and Africa, as well as vast areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. The risk to public safety is very remote.

     

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Lots of newsbuzz today on the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite. Not since Skylab came down in 1979 has there been this much buzz over space junk burnup. I wonder if somebody will name their kid after it.

Just hours before re-entry, a baby boy was born in Patiala, India. He was named Skylab Singh. Source: “Baby Named Skylab.” Vancouver Sun 12 Jul. 1979: A7.

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NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, or UARS, is expected to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere late Sept. 23 or early Sept. 24 Eastern Daylight Time, almost six years after the end of a productive scientific life. Although the spacecraft will break into pieces during re-entry, not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere.

The risk to public safety or property is extremely small, and safety is NASA’s top priority. Since the beginning of the Space Age in the late-1950s, there have been no confirmed reports of an injury resulting from re-entering space objects. Nor is there a record of significant property damage resulting from a satellite re-entry.

It is still too early to say exactly when UARS will re-enter and what geographic area may be affected, but NASA is watching the satellite closely and will keep you informed. Visit this page for updates on the satellite’s orbital track and predicted re-entry date.

› Re-Entry and Risk Assessment (498 KB PDF)
› Frequently Asked Questions: Orbital Debris

The updates posted here come from the Joint Space Operations Center of U.S. Strategic Command at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., which works around the clock detecting, identifying and tracking all man-made objects in Earth orbit, including space junk.

The actual time of re-entry is difficult to predict because it depends on solar flux and the spacecraft’s orientation as its orbit decays. As re-entry draws closer, predictions on the date will become more reliable.

Because the satellite’s orbit is inclined 57 degrees to the equator, any surviving components of UARS will land within a zone between 57 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south latitude. It is impossible to pinpoint just where in that zone the debris will land, but NASA estimates the debris footprint will be about 500 miles long.

If you find something you think may be a piece of UARS, do not touch it. Contact a local law enforcement official for assistance.

UARS Science Accomplishments

artist concept of uars

An artist’s concept shows UARS in Earth orbit. Credit: NASA NASA’s UARS satellite, launched in 1991 from the Space Shuttle, was the first multi-instrumented satellite to observe numerous chemical constituents of the atmosphere with a goal of better understanding atmospheric photochemistry and transport.

Many of these studies centered on the early understanding of ozone photochemistry. The timing of the UARS launch could not have been better. At that time, there were many open questions as to the details surrounding stratospheric ozone loss, especially with the processes related to the Antarctic ozone hole. UARS data were uniquely designed to address those questions.

Also, just before the launch of UARS, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo occurred in the Philippines, pumping significant amount of sulfuric acid aerosols into the tropical stratosphere. Atmospheric transport spread these aerosols around the global stratosphere over the next year, affecting both the chemistry and the temperature and radiative balance of the atmosphere.

UARS data also marked the beginning of numerous long-term data records for many key chemical species in the atmosphere. These data are now being combined with more recent data sets (especially from NASA’s Aura satellite) to better understand how the atmosphere reacts to the policies set down by the Montreal Protocol as well as changes in climate drivers.

UARS also provided key data on the amount of light that comes from the sun at ultraviolet and visible wavelengths. Those data were key for better understanding the radiative balance of the stratosphere and mesosphere and for the photochemistry in those parts of the atmosphere.

UARS ceased its productive scientific life in 2005.

› More Detailed Information on UARS’ Science Accomplishments

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/uars/index.html

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60 thoughts on “It’s all UARS

  1. If we still had running Shuttles, could we have gone up and recovered it?

    Although it clearly has solar cells for power, was there a plutonium-powered RTG tucked in there somewhere, for backup/emergency power?

  2. “The risk to public safety or property is extremely small, and safety is NASA’s top priority. ”
    You’ll recall this post. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/06/24/something-more-worrisome-than-global-warming/ which had this sentence in it: “NASA analysts say there is no chance the space rock will strike Earth.”
    I grant you, Mr. Watts, that you weren’t the author of that post.
    Please, do make up your mind whether scientists at NASA are trustworthy and whether alarm is appropriate for threats which are considered vanishingly small by experts.

  3. According to this:

    http://reentrynews.aero.org/1991063b.html

    we have two chances tonight in California to see it, one about 7:45 pm PDT and the other about 9:15 pm (if I converted from Zulu correctly). SoCal is first. If you see anything down there, Nevadan’s better duck. Are they betting on anyone getting hit in Las Vegas?

  4. I understand the chance of a human casualty is 1 in about 3200, but the likelihood of a particular person being hit is more like 1 in 21 trillion.

    That’s actually pretty reassuring, aefq]yT9PE]GFV F

    [connection dropped]

  5. Some European says: September 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Please, do make up your mind whether scientists at NASA are trustworthy and whether alarm is appropriate for threats which are considered vanishingly small by experts.

    Why so snarky? What is the connection between that asteroid and UARS? Aside from that, where in either posting did Anthony raise any alarm that could possibly offend even you?

  6. William Briggs looks at the odds: “What Are The Chances NASA’s Rogue Satellite Kills You?”

    http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=4377

    “Watch the skies! Identified flying objects released into space by NASA might fall on somebody’s head, or at least land nearby a noggin, on Friday, 23 September 2011, at 12:43 pm. Plus or minus a day. Or maybe a day-and-a-half.
    Yes, NASA, the agency which claims it can predict global temperature two decades hence to a precision of a tenth of a degree, cannot do better than derive a forty-eight-hour window to predict the dropping to the Earth of a mass of metal and cable, even though they can track that object in space down to the meter. “

  7. Some European says: September 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Please, do make up your mind whether scientists at NASA are trustworthy and whether alarm is appropriate for threats which are considered vanishingly small by experts.

    NASA has it’s good points and research, but when you add in an environmental activist to oversee MMGW ‘research’, you have to ask yourself if the results of this research have a bias. It has been pointed out many times and it sure appears to be the case. Then there is all the funding…

  8. According to a Face Book friend, and completely unverified by me:

    So, today was the last-ever All My Children. It was brilliant, prescient screenwriting to have Pine Valley wiped out by a returning piece of space junk. Bravo, ABC!

    To non-US readers – “All My Children” was a long-running “Soap Opera”, live (usually) daily drama targeted at housewives back when you could live on a single income. The advertisers often sold soap, laundry detergents, and the other tools needed by a successful housewife.

    I never understood why people watched them, apologies to readers who grew up with them.

  9. I don’t get the “safety is NASA top priority” bit. I mean, they have no idea where it will land, so what exactly can they do to keep people safe?

  10. There are some real questions to be answered, which no-one (except Curious George) seems to be asking.

    First, we are assured that all of the toxic substances (fuel) are all gone. So why not touch the pieces?

    Secondly, I thought it was always policy, as well as good manners, to use the last vestiges of fuel for a controlled re-entry, to ensure that burned out satellites land in uninhabited regions. Why was this monstrosity which is pretty much guaranteed to have pieces survive re-entry, completely emptied of fuel. Seems like a lawsuit (or two) waiting to happen.

  11. It’s good that NASA is doing so much to promote Renewable Energy.

    Stand outdoors in the right place at the right time, and NASA will send you a free solar panel.

    Free shipping too. Just go outside tonight and wait for it to drop on by…

  12. As of 10:30 a.m. EDT on Sept. 23, 2011, the orbit of UARS was 100 miles by 105 miles …..
    It is still too early to predict the time and location of re-entry with any certainty, but predictions will become more refined in the next 12 to 18 hours.

    So are they saying, “Our prediction will be more refined when it finally hits the ground” ????

  13. Seems like something from UARS has fallen onto ground in northern Italy. Here is a video of security personnel recovering /something/:

    http://www.youreporter.it/video_RECUPERO_DI_UN_PEZZO_DEL_SATELLITE_UARS_2

    Two twitter users reported a fireball in the sky about three hours ago (and one is a well-known climate skeptic blogger here in .it, BTW). Locations (Mantova and Biella respectively) are near where video was taken and highly compatible with UARS time/orbit prediction you can see here: http://twitpic.com/6pgf54

  14. I called my daughter in Miami when I saw it was supposed to pass directly overhead there. She saw it go into the Earth’s shadow, just like the tool on heavens-above.com showed it would, at 7:51 p.m. EDT.

    We have a shot here in Huntsville at 8:21 p.m. CDT, but since the sun won’t be shining on it, it would have to burn up to see it.

  15. If I remember correctly, Mir was intentionally reentered and discarded. There was a private outfit named Mircorp that tried to broker a deal to purchase it after the Russians were finished with it and turn it into a commercial destination. Here is the best url I can find for them: http://www.mircorp.org/

    Is a shame that DoD wasn’t able to run an anti-satellite test on UARS so as to break it up and disperse the volatiles. Would have been good practice for the Navy and command and control of whatever part of the globe the shot took place from. Cheers -

  16. Re-entry was not supposed to be anywhere near the U.S. two days ago. Believe you me, NASA uses models for their re-entry predictions. I have two things to say with regards to models in general and their future predictions:

    1) Everything you “see” has already happened.
    2) Randomness always intersects the mean.

    Best,

    J.

  17. Surely they mean a low chance of items surviving until they land in Australia, which is where Skylab ended up after they predicted similar. One may still view pieces at the Balladonia Road Station on the Eyre Highway in Western Australia, as if you didn’t need any other reason to stop after hours of straight road. It’s become quite the tourist spot. Apparently no one heeded any warning about touching, if there was one.

  18. Whats the latest word as to where the ‘track’ will be visible?

    Looking to utilize a couple Canon S3 IS cameras (picked up off eBay) for ‘image capture’ (to replace the one I wore out) … also picked up a Canon SX20 IS while I was at it …

    .

  19. So….California-bound huh?
    1) Are there any applicable salvage laws I need to know about?
    2) What is the going rate for scrap titanium?

    Come to Papa….

    …Might pay for a few nice seafood dinners and a bottle or two of fine Booze.

  20. agimarc says:
    September 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm
    Is a shame that DoD wasn’t able to run an anti-satellite test on UARS so as to break it up and disperse the volatiles. Would have been good practice for the Navy and command and control of whatever part of the globe the shot took place from.
    ==============================================================
    Maybe they are/will or all ready did??????

  21. But wait – there’s more:

    The world’s eyes are on the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) headed toward re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. The satellite is currently predicted to re-enter sometime on the afternoon of Friday, September 23, 2011, but it hasn’t been easy to precisely determine the path and pace of UARS despite the fact that scientists well understand how satellites move through space. The problem lies in the fact that space itself changes over time — the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere can warm up and, more importantly, puff up in response to incoming energy and particles from the sun.

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/solar-effects.html

    One might wonder if the “incoming energy and particles from the sun” could possibly have any impact on the climate as it warms up the upper layers of the Earth’s atmosphere and make it “puff up”?

    Perhaps more than one might wonder that.

  22. Updated as of about 8:51 PM or 0151 UTC:

    Predicted Reentry Time: 24 SEP 2011 @ 05:10 UTC ± 2 hours

    Per website in my previous post.

    .

  23. I missed a pass, per spaceweather.com:

    UARS JUST SEEN OVER TEXAS: UARS is still in orbit. Observers in central Texas saw it streaking overhead (but not disintegrating) at 8:18 PM CDT on Sept. 23rd (1:18 UTC on Sept 24th).

    .

  24. If safety truly was NASA’s top priority, they would not have used up the re-entry steering fuel for 1 last experiment.
    A familiar story told in more places than one could possibly imagine. Safety is always talked up, but when push comes to shove, far too often it is the last consideration.
    Now, we have a 6.5 ton satellite totally out of control landing only God knows where.
    Please, NASA, tell me: where was safety when the decision was made several years back to use the re-entry steering fuel?
    Secondly, where is the up to the minute lat-long of this satellite?
    The fancy google app on Fox News is overloaded and useless.

  25. Present orbit has it going over or close to Alberta, so perhaps a good viewing here…will be outside to have a check…

  26. From Update #12:

    Fri, 23 Sep 2011 07:50:07 PM PDT

    As of 10:30 p.m. EDT on Sept. 23, 2011, the orbit of UARS was 85 miles by 90 miles (135 km by 140 km). Re-entry is expected between 11:45 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, and 12:45 a.m., Sept. 24, Eastern Daylight Time (3:45 a.m. to 4:45 a.m. GMT). (…)

    Any minute now…

  27. My husband is just an unlucky person. Dozens of times I’ve asked, “What are the odds of THAT happening?!?” I’ve asked him to spend the night in Boulder.

  28. _Jim says:
    September 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    > Ric, any idea on the track this is projected to take?

    As you’ve likely gathered by not, it’s too late for you.

    http://www.heavens-above.com/ is a really good site for getting information on ISS and other satellite passes, and also Iridium flares – if you have seen one, you really should try to watch a bright event, they’re pretty cool.

  29. I suspect it is crashing into the south pacific now – or maybe already has, or even south of Australia ( . .just my guess based on the re-entry time . .).

    . . .gee, and I forgot to make popcorn . . ! :-)

  30. It’s track should be bringing it back over North America about now. I’m at 48 degrees north; is it worth going back out and suffering the yipping white dog in my neighbor’s yard? Guess I’ll take one more look before bed.

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